By Sherrie Norris
My kitchen pantry is filling up quickly with sugars, nuts and all those other ingredients needed for my annual Christmas cookie and candy-making marathon. I’m not sure when it will happen, but it must be soon— and in addition to an uninterrupted stretch of time and a burst of energy, I’m also waiting for a convenient clear, cold day without rain. The weather affects it, believe it or not, especially when working with chocolate.
The following recipes include some of my favorite seasonal delights, or a version of same. I hope you find something here to help with your own Christmas candy-making and baking inspirations. When you see the smiles it all brings to your loved ones, you will realize it was well worth the effort.
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
Line an 8-inch baking dish with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving some overhang for easy removal. Set aside.
Add chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and butter to a large saucepan and cook over medium heat. Stir continuously until chocolate chips are fully melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Spread evenly.
Refrigerate until fudge is firm, about two hours, at least. Remove from pan, using the overhang from the parchment paper or foil to lift out; cut into squares. May be stored in the refrigerator in airtight container for about a week. Will also freeze well for several months.
Old-Fashion Hard Candy
3½ cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
½ tsp. cinnamon oil or peppermint oil
1 tsp. red or green food coloring
In large, heavy saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook on medium-high heat until candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees, (or to hard-crack stage) stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in food coloring and oil, keeping face away from mixture as it has a very strong and overpowering minty smell.
Immediately pour onto a greased cookie sheet. Let cool, then break into pieces. Store in airtight container.
Flavored oils are found in cake decorating and candy supply sections of most stores.
2 cups shelled raw peanuts
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
Spread peanuts evenly in a jelly roll pan and bake at 350 for 15 minutes; stirring once. Set aside.
Combine next five ingredients in large pot over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves.
Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches hard crack stage (300 degrees).
Remove from heat, stir in peanuts, soda and vanilla. Working rapidly, spread mixture in jellyroll pan. Let cool; break into pieces. Makes about 2 pounds.
Easy Cream Cheese Fudge
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
6 cups powdered sugar
1½ tsp. vanilla
1 pkg.(12 oz.) white chocolate chips
1 oz.(1 square) semi-sweet baking chocolate
2 tsp. shortening
¾ cup chopped pecans, reserve extra pecan halves for garnish
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Melt white chocolate chips in microwave on low until smooth, stirring occasionally. Fold into cream cheese mixture with chopped pecans. Spread into a greased 8-inch baking dish. Chill until ready to frost. Melt baking chocolate with shortening in microwave on low (about 2 minutes). Pour over top of fudge and spread to cover. Garnish with reserved pecan halves. Cool, then cut into squares.
Holiday Fruit Drops
½ cup shortening
½ cup butter or margarine
2 cups brown sugar
3 ½ cups sifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
½ cup water
1 ½ cup chopped walnuts
2 cups mixed candied fruit
½ cup halved candied red cherries
Cream together shortening, butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients alternately with water to creamed mixture, mixing well. Stir in walnuts, candied fruit and cherries. Chill dough in refrigerator for 1 hour. Drop by teaspoonful on greased baking sheets. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown. Makes about 7 dozen.
Pecan Pie Bars
1 yellow or butter-flavor cake mix
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ cups dark corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
Heat oven to 350. Grease oblong baking dish or pan. Set aside 2/3 cup of cake mix. In large bowl, combine remaining cake mix, margarine and 1 egg until well blended, and press in bottom of pan. Bake at 350 for 15 or 20 minutes or until light brown.
In large bowl, combine reserved 2/3 cup cake mix, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and 3 eggs until well blended. Pour mixture over warm base, sprinkle with pecans. Bake an additional 30-35 minutes or until filling is set. Cool and cut into bars. Store in refrigerator.